Anne Sexton |
You always read about it:
the plumber with the twelve children
who wins the Irish Sweepstakes.
From toilets to riches.
Or the nursemaid,
some luscious sweet from Denmark
who captures the oldest son's heart.
from diapers to Dior.
Or a milkman who serves the wealthy,
eggs, cream, butter, yogurt, milk,
the white truck like an ambulance
who goes into real estate
and makes a pile.
From homogenized to martinis at lunch.
Or the charwoman
who is on the bus when it cracks up
and collects enough from the insurance.
From mops to Bonwit Teller.
the wife of a rich man was on her deathbed
and she said to her daughter Cinderella:
Then I will smile
down from heaven in the seam of a cloud.
The man took another wife who had
two daughters, pretty enough
but with hearts like blackjacks.
Cinderella was their maid.
She slept on the sooty hearth each night
and walked around looking like Al Jolson.
Her father brought presents home from town,
jewels and gowns for the other women
but the twig of a tree for Cinderella.
She planted that twig on her mother's grave
and it grew to a tree where a white dove sat.
Whenever she wished for anything the dove
would drop it like an egg upon the ground.
The bird is important, my dears, so heed him.
Next came the ball, as you all know.
It was a marriage market.
The prince was looking for a wife.
All but Cinderella were preparing
and gussying up for the event.
Cinderella begged to go too.
Her stepmother threw a dish of lentils
into the cinders and said: Pick them
up in an hour and you shall go.
The white dove brought all his friends;
all the warm wings of the fatherland came,
and picked up the lentils in a jiffy.
No, Cinderella, said the stepmother,
you have no clothes and cannot dance.
That's the way with stepmothers.
Cinderella went to the tree at the grave
and cried forth like a gospel singer:
Mama! Mama! My turtledove,
send me to the prince's ball!
The bird dropped down a golden dress
and delicate little slippers.
Rather a large package for a simple bird.
So she went.
Which is no surprise.
Her stepmother and sisters didn't
recognize her without her cinder face
and the prince took her hand on the spot
and danced with no other the whole day.
As nightfall came she thought she'd better
The prince walked her home
and she disappeared into the pigeon house
and although the prince took an axe and broke
it open she was gone.
Back to her cinders.
These events repeated themselves for three days.
However on the third day the prince
covered the palace steps with cobbler's wax
and Cinderella's gold shoe stuck upon it.
Now he would find whom the shoe fit
and find his strange dancing girl for keeps.
He went to their house and the two sisters
were delighted because they had lovely feet.
The eldest went into a room to try the slipper on
but her big toe got in the way so she simply
sliced it off and put on the slipper.
The prince rode away with her until the white dove
told him to look at the blood pouring forth.
That is the way with amputations.
They just don't heal up like a wish.
The other sister cut off her heel
but the blood told as blood will.
The prince was getting tired.
He began to feel like a shoe salesman.
But he gave it one last try.
This time Cinderella fit into the shoe
like a love letter into its envelope.
At the wedding ceremony
the two sisters came to curry favor
and the white dove pecked their eyes out.
Two hollow spots were left
like soup spoons.
Cinderella and the prince
lived, they say, happily ever after,
like two dolls in a museum case
never bothered by diapers or dust,
never arguing over the timing of an egg,
never telling the same story twice,
never getting a middle-aged spread,
their darling smiles pasted on for eternity.
Regular Bobbsey Twins.
Randall Jarrell |
Her imaginary playmate was a grown-up
In sea-coal satin.
The flame-blue glances,
The wings gauzy as the membrane that the ashes
Draw over an old ember --as the mother
In a jug of cider-- were a comfort to her.
They sat by the fire and told each other stories.
"What men want.
" said the godmother softly--
How she went on it is hard for a man to say.
Their eyes, on their Father, were monumental marble.
Then they smiled like two old women, bussed each other,
Said, "Gossip, gossip"; and, lapped in each other's looks,
Mirror for Mirror, drank a cup of tea.
Of cambric tea.
But there is a reality
Under the good silk of the good sisters'
Good ball gowns.
She pushed her silk feet into glass, and rose within
A gown of imaginary gauze.
The shy prince drank
A toast to her in champagne from her slipper
And breathed, "Bewitching!" Breathed, "I am bewitched!"
--She said to her godmother, "Men!"
And, later, looking down to see her flesh
Look back up from under lace, the ashy gauze
And pulsing marble of a bridal veil,
She wished it all a widow's coal-black weeds.
A sullen wife and a reluctant mother,
She sat all day in silence by the fire.
Better, later, to stare past her sons' sons,
Her daughters' daughter, and tell stories to the fire.
But best, dead, damned, to rock forever
Beside Hell's fireside-- to see within the flames
The Heaven to whosee gold-gauzed door there comes
A little dark old woman, the God's Mother,
And cries, "Come in, come in! My son's out now,
Out now, will be back soon, may be back never,
Who knows, eh? We know what they are--men, men!
But come, come in till then! Come in till then!
Kenn Nesbitt |
Poor Cinderella, whose stepmom was mean,
could never see films rated PG-13.
She hadn’t a cell phone and no DVD,
no notebook computer or pocket TV.
She wasn’t allowed to play video games.
The tags on her clothes had unfashionable names.
Her shoes were not trendy enough to be cool.
No limousine chauffeur would drive her to school.
Her house had no drawing room; only a den.
Her bedtime, poor darling, was quarter past ten!
Well one day Prince Charming declared that a ball
would be held in his honor and maidens from all
over the kingdom were welcome to come
and party to techno and jungle house drum.
But Poor Cinderella, with nothing to wear,
collapsed in her stepmother’s La-Z-Boy chair.
She let out a sigh, with a lump in her throat,
then sniffled and picked up the TV remote.
She surfed channel zero to channel one-ten
then went back to zero and started again.
She watched music videos, sitcoms and sports,
commercials and talkshows and weather reports.
But no fairy godmother came to her side
to offer a dress or a carriage to ride.
So Poor Cinderella’s been sitting there since,
while one of her stepsisters married the Prince.
She sits there and sadly complains to the screen,
if only her stepmother wasn’t so mean.
Copyright © Kenn Nesbitt 2009. All Rights Reserved.
Robert William Service |
Cinderella in the street
In a ragged gown,
Sloven slippers on her feet,
Shames our tidy town;
Harsh her locks of ashen grey,
Vapour vague her stare,
By the curb this bitter day
Selling papers there.
Cinderella once was sweet,
Fine and lily fair,
Silver slippers on her feet,
Ribands in her hair;
Solid men besought her hand,
Tart was she as quince,
Living in a fairy land,
Waiting for a Prince.
Days went by and years went by,
Wistful wan was she;
Heedless of a mother's sigh,
Of a lover's plea;
On her lips a carol gay,
In her heart a dream -
Soon the Prince would come her way,
Gallant and agleam.
Then at last she learned the truth,
How her hope was vain;
Gone her beauty, gone her youth,
Leaving want and pain.
See! she's waiting all alone;
Hark! you hear her cry
Papers by the cold curb-stone,
Begging you to buy.
Winter winds are waxing chill,
Clouds rack overhead;
Cinderella will be ill,
Bye and bye be dead.
Yet she kept her vision clear,
To Romance was true,
Holding him forever dear
Whom she never knew.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Cinderellas of to-day
Take no chance of loss;
When a good guy comes your way,
Nail him to the cross.
Let some ordinary cuss
Your coy heart convince;
Never miss the nuptial bus
Waiting for a Prince.
Vachel Lindsay |
The Lion is a kingly beast.
He likes a Hindu for a feast.
And if no Hindu he can get,
The lion-family is upset.
He cuffs his wife and bites her ears
Till she is nearly moved to tears.
Then some explorer finds the den
And all is family peace again.
AN EXPLANATION OF THE GRASSHOPPER
The Grasshopper, the grasshopper,
I will explain to you:—
He is the Brownies' racehorse,
The fairies' Kangaroo.
THE DANGEROUS LITTLE BOY FAIRIES
In fairyland the little boys
Would rather fight than eat their meals.
They like to chase a gauze-winged fly
And catch and beat him till he squeals.
Sometimes they come to sleeping men
Armed with the deadly red-rose thorn,
And those that feel its fearful wound
Repent the day that they were born.
THE MOUSE THAT GNAWED THE OAK-TREE DOWN
The mouse that gnawed the oak-tree down
Began his task in early life.
He kept so busy with his teeth
He had no time to take a wife.
He gnawed and gnawed through sun and rain
When the ambitious fit was on,
Then rested in the sawdust till
A month of idleness had gone.
He did not move about to hunt
The coteries of mousie-men.
He was a snail-paced, stupid thing
Until he cared to gnaw again.
The mouse that gnawed the oak-tree down,
When that tough foe was at his feet —
Found in the stump no angel-cake
Nor buttered bread, nor cheese, nor meat —
The forest-roof let in the sky.
"This light is worth the work," said he.
"I'll make this ancient swamp more light,"
And started on another tree.
Where does Cinderella sleep?
By far-off day-dream river.
A secret place her burning Prince
Decks, while his heart-strings quiver.
Homesick for our cinder world,
Her low-born shoulders shiver;
She longs for sleep in cinders curled —
We, for the day-dream river.
THE SPIDER AND THE GHOST OF THE FLY
Once I loved a spider
When I was born a fly,
A velvet-footed spider
With a gown of rainbow-dye.
She ate my wings and gloated.
She bound me with a hair.
She drove me to her parlor
Above her winding stair.
To educate young spiders
She took me all apart.
My ghost came back to haunt her.
I saw her eat my heart.
CRICKETS ON A STRIKE
The foolish queen of fairyland
From her milk-white throne in a lily-bell,
Gave command to her cricket-band
To play for her when the dew-drops fell.
But the cold dew spoiled their instruments
And they play for the foolish queen no more.
Instead those sturdy malcontents
Play sharps and flats in my kitchen floor.